New Delhi, Sep 16 (IANS) The Narendra Modi government on Wednesday approved an extra 50 days of work for farmers/workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) to help reduce rural distress in view of deficient monsoon.
The union cabinet, at a meeting here, decided that farmers hit by the deficient monsoon this Kharif season would now get minimum assured employment of 150 days under the MGNREGS.
MGNREGS aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to a rural household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
Communications and Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the government has decided to increase the number of working days under the scheme from 100 to 150 “in order to alleviate the economic stress arising out of the second straight year of drought ravaging the country”.
An official release said: “The union cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its ex-post facto approval to provide an additional 50 days of unskilled manual work in the financial year over and above the 100 days assured to job card holders, in such rural areas where drought or natural calamities have been notified.”
“The poorest rural households will benefit from this, as it will help in immediate absorption of rural seasonal unemployment, and reduce rural distress,” it added.
The government had in August given its approval for direct release of wages to workers under the MGNREGS to increase overall efficiency of implementation of the act, which was passed during the term of United Progressive Alliance government.
The government move on extending number of days for beneficiaries under the MGNREGS has come even as it has in the past taken digs at the Congress over the programme.
Prime Minister Modi earlier this year called the MGNREGS a “living testimony” to the party’s failure in governing the country.
The Congress had also accused the government of trying to kill the “soul and spirit” of the MGNREGS, saying lack of availability of work under the programme had led to increase in farmer’s suicides in vulnerable areas like Vidharba, Maharashtra.
The release said the agriculture ministry on Monday announced relief measures in view of deficient rainfall including diesel subsidies and enhanced ceiling on seed subsidy to provide relief to farmers.
The agriculture ministry, in a statement on Monday, said: “To provide immediate relief to the farmers, in view of the deficit monsoon during Kharif 2015, the government of India has taken a number of decisions. Orders on these measures have been issued to all state governments, which would implement them on the basis of assessed need.”
“The poorest rural households will benefit, as it will help in immediate absorption of rural seasonal unemployment, and reduce rural distress,” the statement said.
The farmers would also be provided a diesel subsidy of Rs.2,000 per hectare to offset the cost of diesel used for pumping water in areas where the rainfall deficit is more than 50 percent.
Moreover, the government has raised the ceiling on seed subsidy by 50 percent over the existing levels for distribution in the drought-hit areas.
The states have also been advised to initiate advance remedial actions and keep aside about 5 to 10 percent of fund allocated under Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for taking interventions to minimize the impact of deficit rainfall, the statement said.
Other measures taken by the government include sending SMS advisories, on weather and measures to minimise adverse impact of extreme weather event, to registered farmers.
The government has also released the first instalment of State Disaster Response Fund to the state governments.